India have been a dominant force in Test cricket over the last 12 months. The template is pretty specific – batsmen come out and pile up runs, bowlers charge in and skittle out opponents. Their attack has all the bases covered and as such, they should be overwhelming favourites to clinch the Test series which is about to begin against New Zealand. However, the side is grappling with a number of injuries as well as indifferent form and this will lead to furrowed eyebrows in the dressing room.
The opening combination looks to be the more vulnerable. Mayank Agarwal, who was a run-scoring machine in the home Tests has found it tough to going in New Zealand. He bagged a pair for India A in an unofficial Test against New Zealand A in Christchurch, and then could only manage scores of 32, 3 and 1 in the ODI series.
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In the warm-up clash against New Zealand XI, the right-hander was sent packing for 1. He should still walk out to take guard for India in the first Test as he has earned a long rope, but he will be nervous.
Prithvi Shaw, who replaced Rohit Sharma in the Test squad, looked bright in the ODI series but could not come up with any significant score. He bagged a duck in the warm-up clash.
Shubman Gill retained his spot with scores of 83, 204* and 136 in his last two red-ball games for India A, in New Zealand. He averages 73.55 in first-class cricket. However, to complicate things further, he too was sent packing for a duck.
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India were reduced to 5 for 3 before one could blink in Christchurch and suddenly, there seems to be a problem. While the management is very positive and coach Shastri is willing to back both the young players, what will be India’s opening combination for the first Test match is not fixed.
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